Monday, May 26, 2014

Plans as models

Plans are models (Model: a system or thing to be followed or imitated).

Example: "This plan is a model for all plans that come later"
It follows: the project plan is a model of the project "process" or road map leading to where? Ah hah! -- predictable results!

It's always been that way
In fact, the idea of a project plan as a model -- or THE model -- of the project from which entirely predictable results can be obtained -- first by simulation, and then by actual execution -- is as old as project management and lies at the heart of traditional methods

And now the new sheriff in town: Agile
Should there be -- do I need -- a project plan for agile? Yes, and yes! Just think of the plan as a model, and the logic of having a model to follow while doing agile is self-evidently worthy. Why wouldn't you want a road map? 

Or think of this: standing before an executive (who has all the money and influence) pitching a project and saying: "I've no plan, no model, no process for what I want to do, but give me your money!" Likely, you'll only do that once.

And, of course, agile is a process onto itself (said process can be modeled, of course), even if we allow some customization and emergence of process details along the way. Example: the stand-up review, typically daily -- it's very definitely a process and there's very definitely a road map through this review. Perhaps better yet: moving WIP through a Kanban -- a process? You betcha!

Here we are
So, logic has gotten us here: Agilists who work with OPM (other people's money) certainly have a project plan,  and it is also a model.  But it's not presumed to be of such high fidelity or to be thought of as THE model, but rather A model that can be used to get going in the right direction.

Thus, the distinction with traditional methods is not plan or no plan, process or no process, model or no model, but rather fidelity and detail.
  • Traditionalists: get as much detail up front as possible and nail it down;
  • Agilists: get enough detail up front to make reasonable estimates and to get the starting vector right, and then add detail as needed.

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